To compare the physical growth, current health status, and utilization of health care resources by extremely low birth weight (ELBW) and control (C) adolescents and to look at changes over time.
A longitudinal regional cohort study was conducted. Growth measures were converted to z scores on the National Center for Health Statistics growth curves. Information regarding current health status/health care utilization was obtained by parental interviews.
A total of 154 (91%) of 169 ELBW survivors between 12 and 16 years and 125 (86%) of 145 controls participated. Neurosensory impairments were present in 28% of ELBW survivors and 2% of control participants. Mean z scores for both height and weight were below 0 for ELBW survivors (weight: −0.35; height: −0.55) compared with control participants (weight: 0.40; height: 0.28). However, among ELBW survivors, significant catch-up growth occurred in both parameters between age 8 and adolescence but remained stable among control participants. ELBW survivors had a higher prevalence of visual problems (57% vs 21%), seizures (7% vs 1%), developmental delay (26% vs 1%), learning disabilities (34% vs 10%), and hyperactivity (9% vs 2%) and used more specialists and community resources than did control participants.
Although physical growth continues to be compromised and substantial morbidity remains among ELBW survivors at adolescence, there seems to be some catch-up growth, a reduction in the prevalence of acute health problems, and a decrease in the utilization of medical resources.